Top Ten Ways to Properly Prepare for Your Marathon
By Rick Morris
You’ve put in a lot of hours and endless miles of training to get ready for your marathon. You are at a peak level of fitness and are ready to set a new marathon PR. There’s nothing left to do. Or is there? Is there more to marathon preparation than the physical and mental training that you are already doing? Yep – there is. There are a number of planning and logistical steps that many marathon runners forget about. Here is how to prepare for a marathon.
One of the first steps of how to prepare for a marathon is setting a goal. Before you even begin training you would be wise to clearly define your marathon goal. Do you just want to finish comfortably? Do you want to use walk/run combination or run the entire distance? Are you trying to set a new PR or complete your marathon in a specific time? These are all questions you need to answer before you can even begin to design and carry out a successful training plan.
I think the second step of how to prepare for a marathon involves your timeline. It happens to us all at one time or another. Despite all your hard work and planning you discover that your timeline is all wrong! You are three weeks short on training time! Don’t let that happen to you. Use a calendar and precisely map out your training weeks. Now check it, double check it and triple check it. Marathon training requires fairly precise timing, so don’t let a timeline mistake mess you up.
This may seem like a no brainer on how to prepare for your marathon, but be sure you get registered for your race way ahead of time. Most major marathons fill up quickly. If you procrastinate on your race registration you could end up getting shut out of your race.
A forgotten part of how to prepare for a marathon is your travel. Destination marathons are very popular because they are like a vacation. Since they are so popular, hotel space tends to fill quickly. Claim your accommodations in the prime locations near the starting line early. If you wait too long you may end up traveling miles to the starting line. Don’t forget to take advantage of early discounts on air travel.
I learned this one the hard way. I trained hard for a warm weather marathon. I did everything right, with one big exception. I didn’t check the race day weather forecast. I hopped on the plane, traveling light. Just my running shorts, shirt, shoes and other necessities. To my dismay, I found out there was a record cold snap on marathon day. I had to pay prime prices for some cold weather gear at the expo. Be sure you check the weather forecast before you head out for the race and pack the appropriate gear.
One of the rules of marathon running is to know your course. Learn the landmarks, the terrain and where major incline changes are. Find out where the aid stations are going to be and what type of food and fluids will be available. You don’t necessarily need to drive the course, but be sure to check the course map in your race packet. It should show most major landmarks and aid stations.
You did the training and got to the starting line. Now what do you do? Just run? There’s more to it than that. What is your pacing strategy? How are you going to deal with the changing weather? Are you going to run through aid stations or walk them? How are you going to answer competitors surges? The moment when the starting gun goes off isn’t the ideal time to think of those things. Determine your race strategy and tactics well before you get to the starting line. Race tactics can change during the marathon, but at least have a general idea of what you are going to do before you get there.
Don’t forget to include a proper taper in your training schedule. You will almost certainly perform better if you go into your marathon fully recovered from your training. Doing a marathon a few days after a hard 23 mile training run is a great way to set a new personal worst.
Your nutritional requirements are not static in nature. They are dynamic. They change according to where you are in your training plan. During heavy training you need more calories with a higher percentage from carbohydrates. During your taper you need fewer calories with a bit more from protein. During race week you need to increase your carb consumption to top off your tank. Pay attention to your nutrition in each phase of training to avoid a nutritional nightmare.
Race Week Righteousness
Congratulations, you made it to race week, but your training isn’t over. The above mentioned nutrition is one thing you need to pay attention to. Another is to make sure you get plenty of rest. If you are doing a destination marathon there are a lot of distractions that can take away from your rest. There may be a lot of area attractions you want to see. Spending hours per day on your feet, doing the tourist thing, may not be the most efficient way to rest.
Try to do your site seeing after your race and not before. If this is your first marathon you should go to the carbo load dinner so you get the entire race experience package. If you are a veteran marathoner, consider skipping the carbo load dinner. Instead, eat a quiet and restful dinner in your room or at a nearby restaurant. If you attend the carbo load dinner, don’t overeat. Eating too much will make you sluggish on race day and may interfere with your nights sleep.